Monday, August 23, 2010
ACME Burger Company – High Concept, High Price
I'd always been curious about gourmet hamburgers and their restaurants. I got a chance to try one out in Salt Lake City – the ACME Burger Company. Part of me is wishing I hadn't.
My oldest daughter and I were waiting for a show at the Rose Wagner Theater and both of us were hungry. Fortunately, there are several restaurants nearby. Right next to the theater, back behind P.F. Chang's, we noticed a promising burger place: the ACME Burger Company. I thought, why not? It's got to be better than the chemically altered meat patties masquerading as hamburgers at McDonald's.
As we entered the place, I was struck with how interesting and modern it felt. It seemed like a cross between a family burger joint and an upscale haute couture restaurant. The atmosphere was bold, but comfortable. I liked the table layout and the seats at the bar. If it hadn't been raining, we might have sat at the small set of tables outside.
The walls had some great paintings. They were like modern expressionist works but had fun inside jokes on them like, “don't forget the fry sauce.”
We were promptly seated by a cordial host and soon met our waiter. He was a tall fellow with a kind face and slightly amused smile who was more than helpful. He struck a perfect balance between being helpful and getting out the way that some service people lack.
Then I saw the menu. It took me a bit to figure out the categories, but that wasn't what drew my shocked attention. That was the prices. Oh... My... Word... I'd heard of spending $14.00 on a burger but when I saw the prices ranging from $8.00 for the Classic to over $20.00 for the Colossal, that was just for the burgers, my heart backed up in my throat on it's way to throttle my brain. Maybe my brain was trying to get down to throttle my stomach; I'm not too sure. I was feeling a little light-headed at the time, whichever it was. Simply put, the prices are too high, in most cases, for what you're getting.
Screwing up my courage and checking for my credit card, I decided to stay. I wanted to at least try it out for the experience. Besides, my daughter Writer Girl and I were hungry. At the very least I'd have something to blog about.
Writer Girl ordered the Classic burger, and I ordered the Kobe Beef burger with Korean BBQ sauce. She really liked the Classic. “It's really good” was the best I could get out of her, though. Maybe I need to get her a thesaurus. I was tempted to ask her for a bite of it, but I didn't. It did look like a great burger.
The Kobe burger was very tender, as I expected it to be, but there really wasn't enough “char” on the outside. If they'd have turned the burner up higher, and cooked it for slightly less time, I'd have still gotten a slighty pink interior with good caramelization on the outside. The Korean BBQ sauce was tasty, but somewhat overpowering. It occurred to me that paying extra money to get ground up Kobe beef didn't make much sense, either. In hindsight I'm not sure why I did. The appeal of Kobe beef is the extremely even marbling. That's going to happen anyway when you grind it up, isn't it?
I had a chance to try the Classic burger when I went back a second time. My daughter was right. It was really good. But it wasn't $8.00 good.
The one thing both Writer Girl and I could agree on was the thick cut fries. They were excellent with just the right combination of crispness and softness. They were easily the best part of the meal. The fry sauce was, unfortunately, rather pedestrian. Not as good as my fry sauce by a long shot.
Bottom line? If money isn't an option, or you just want to see what gourmet diner food is all about, it might make a fun night out. For the rest of us, I can't recommend it. If the prices weren't so high, maybe. I can justify a larger bill for a full dinner and truly fine dining. I just can't justify $35.00 for what amounts to two burgers, a large order of fries, and two sodas.